Ade Hassan MBE., founder of Nubian Skin discusses fashion trends, colourism and entrepreneurship with The Psychology of Fashion Blog™
Shakaila: Many have referred to Nubian skin as ‘The New Nude’ do you think you’ve successfully reclaimed the word nude
Ade: I think in the industry there’s a long way to go. Traditionally if you go into a shop and you ask for something nude it will still be a certain type of nude. Even though we’re a small company, the campaign and the company has had an outsized impact on the industry because after we launched, about 6-12 months after, people starting doing different shades of nudes. They were adding mocha or maybe caramel to their collections or other companies were sprouting up, getting on that nude bandwagon. So, I definitely think we’ve had a huge impact on what ‘nude’ is seen as but I think there’s still a long way to go.
Shakaila: In numerous cultures, colourism can differentially effect a woman’s experience in education, jobs and in marriage markets, what do you think are some of the societal and psychological advantages of inclusive brands like Nubian Skin?
Ade: Well, I think it shows that no matter what colour you are its good to accept your colour as opposed to trying to fit into one mould. We know that colourism is alive and has a huge negative impact on people and that’s not just among black women, that’s Asian women – there are so many different cultures where that effects women and I think saying ‘actually, you’re perfect the way you are, you should embrace that and people should cater to your colour no matter what it is’ is a really powerful thing.
"....if somebody looks up and they see somebody who looks like them, or their mother on a billboard that’s a huge thing psychologically."
The global market for skin lightening is projected to reach $23 billion by 2020. How do you think the fashion industry can encourage people to embrace the skin that they’re in?
Ade: With skin lighteners, a lot of that is driven by trying to be a certain ideal. In a lot of countries, whether you’re in Africa or Asia, or even Latin America, you see on the billboards what the standard is right? A lot of times that is fairer skin maybe blonde hair, blue eyes, just pale and then of course when you’re seeing that as the image of beauty that effects some people psychologically as so they’re like ‘well I want to fit that standard of beauty’. If you have campaigns which are more diverse, if somebody looks up and they see somebody who looks like them, or their mother on a billboard that’s a huge thing psychologically. Even if people don’t necessarily feel like they’re inviting it, it can be subconscious.
The fashion industry and the industry at large in general just need to be a little bit more thoughtful and inclusive. Especially in markets where you have a bog-standard marketing campaign and you’re putting it in a different market. So, let’s say you’re taking this from the US and placing it in an African country maybe you think about tailoring it to them so people who see it could related to it more.
Shakaila: Have you had any personal experience with colourism?
Ade: Probably the one that comes to mind is when I was in high school in America and I remember there was a girl in my class and she, for whatever reason, always wanted to be like ‘oh you’re dark’. I was like well, I am what I am - it didn’t really bother me. I remember once there was a family picture and my friends were looking at it and she was like ‘oh you and your mum are the lightest in your family. But she said it in a way that was negative because she was always saying ‘you’re dark’. It was really bizarre and insidious. She was trying to be like ‘you’re this, you’re still dark overall’ and I was just like – you’re very strange. I had been raised not to think that way.
For me, it was really interesting to see someone try to make me feel bad because of the tone of my skin. She didn’t succeed but at the time I must have been around 15, 16 and understanding that for some people that is something that they use as a psychological weapon was a bit of an eye-opener.
"I remember in a trade show last year they were talking about trends and one of the trends were Different Skin Tones. I remember thinking that’s not a trend we don’t turn brown for the season and then turn back."
Shakaila: A Nubian Skin Campaign featuring a range of black models went viral and catapulted your brand into success. Reports suggest that in the Spring 2017 campaign there were still only a few instances of diversity. Why do you still think that is the case?
Ade: I think the campaign went really well because it was from the heart and it was saying to women of colour ‘this is for you, we’re thinking about you’. I think sometimes as is the case especially in fashion, people look at things as ‘trends’.
I remember in a trade show last year they were talking about trends and one of the trends were Different Skin Tones. I remember thinking that’s not a trend we don’t turn brown for the season and then turn back. Sometimes in fashion people are like ‘oh what’s hot right now and they think brilliant, let’s bring a bunch of black models in’ or maybe they’re like ‘oh its really cool to do an East Asian theme’. Fashion generally is very trend driven and people don’t quite grasp the difference between trend and something that’s just who people are.
Shakaila: What are some of the most challenging things about being a Black female entrepreneur?
Ade: To be 100% honest, I think it’s probably the same as any entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur with a small business means it’s all on you. It’s a lot of pressure. And the loneliness of it, you know the ins and the outs and people are like ‘wow this is great’ but you’re up to goodness-knows-what time, paying bills, trying to do these accounts. I think with being an entrepreneur because it’s like your baby you just take it to heart so much. You need to find a balance or some sort of coping mechanism to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well as your baby.
Shakaila: Describe the journey from hosiery and lingerie to Nubian Skins first footwear line.
Ade: The end of last year we thought it would be really cool to do shoes. It was something I had been thinking of for a long time but I had no idea where to start. I actually met a fellow entrepreneur and someone who was a shoe consultant and everything just slid into place. I knew exactly what shoe I wanted, we have classic heels, classic ballet flats. We had the colours already so it was just a matter of looking at a lot of leather swatches and several months later we launched the collection. It’s been really fun. We got super lucky with how everything turned out. It’s been a fun experiment, probably something that we’ll do on a limited-edition basis every year.
Shakaila: Will we see a Nubian Skin clothing collection in the future?
Ade: There is a lot of stuff that we’re working on, one of them being expanding our size range. There’s so many things that I’d love to do. It’s important for me to look at it from a strategic perspective and get the basics done first and grow at a healthy pace so – watch this space.
Shakaila: What tips would give to people entering the fashion industry without a stereotypical fashion background?
Visit Nubian Skin to see the collection in full.
“Ageist social practices in popular fashion magazines and the reluctance of the fashion industry to recognise the sartorial needs of female baby boomer cohorts feed into an internalisation of naturally ageing women's bodies as socially undesirable.”
The fashion industry has a complex and clearly documented obsession with youth. As increasingly younger models are being depicted in adult situations in the name of high-fashion, concerns rise as to how deeply ingrained the Lolita effect is entrenched within our modern society. On the other side, with many models being forced into retirement at the tender age of 24, entire generations of people are failing to see aspirational representations of themselves within fashion media contributing to a rise in body image issues, particularly in older women.
The Fashion Spot reports that 50 plus models made up 0.29 percent of all castings for the Fall 2017 shows. A victory - yes but the war against ageism rages on.
The Psychology of Fashion spoke to Caryn Franklin MBE.; Fashion Activist, co-founder of All Walks Beyond The Catwalk and Professor of Diversity, who’s no-holds barred and psychologically grounded approach to tackling fashion’s age problem is aspirational to say the least.
"What we have is lazy and what we need is a new more adventurous perspective"
POF: During London's Fall 2017 shows, women including writer Jane Felstead and model Brucella Newman led the 'Grow Up London Fashion Week' protest. Do you think protesting is an effective tool to combat ageism in the industry?
FRANKLIN: It’s a pivotal way with which we can make our thoughts known - using a platform like London Fashion Week to put out counter cultural thinking. Fashion week has created the normative fashion body which is young thin and Caucasian and anything outside of that is seen to be novelty. What we want is a situation where diversity, women in all their diverse forms are seen as aspirational and are given a role within the portrayal of fashion.
POF: As a Professor of Diversity and a Fashion Psychology MSc. Graduate, what are some of the new and inventive ways that people are utilising to challenge ageism.
FRANKLIN: Research into the effect of a lack of diversity in role models on our self esteem is making a huge difference. Applying an intellectual rigour to this issue to help retailers understand the situation has some efficacy. Dr. Ben Barry who delivered a huge cross cultural study with over 3,000 women, created a marker for retailers to recognise that when women see models who share similar characteristics they show increased intention to purchase by 300%. Now, because we're in a dynamic that is really about profit, fashion doesn’t operate to prioritise women's self-esteem. There are a load of rich industrialists who are looking to make money. We have to talk to them in a way that helps them to understand that they will be able to investigate new avenues of profit and certainly representation to an age group that has more money to spend would seem to be pertinent and prudent.
POF: Data from the 2014 Bureau of Labour Statistics' annual Consumer Expenditure Survey found that women most likely to spend the most on clothing between the ages of 55 and 64. Given this data why do you think the fashion industry is not embracing this market?
FRANKLIN: I think there are a lot of stereotypical thinking around what the industry feels is representative of their brand. If we're talking about lack of diversity in front of the lens we also must think about lack of diversity behind the lens - who’s in charge? Quite often the people in positions of power have taken on a male perspective. There aren’t enough women in positions of power to change things, so we have an acculturated view of how femininity should be presented which is mostly upheld by white men. When women get into positions of power within the industry they find that they're have to acquiesce to the template – the stereotypical way of thinking and challenging it is quite hard because the brain likes to rely on heuristics. It's the way we've always done things and there's a lot of fear in changing things and doing it differently.
Stills from Style Does Not Retire. A Fashion Film Directed by Caryn Franklin in Collaboration with The Age of No Retirement
POF: Last year you developed the fashion film ‘Style does not retire’. What do you hope to achieve with the film? Will you be taking the project any further?
FRANKLIN: The point of the film was to be able to show that fashion is an amazing tool to involve any body at any age and how clothes do help us read someone. We've featured all designs from emerging design talent, some very avant garde clothes. You automatically read someone very differently when they're wearing clothes that speak to modernity, dynamism, attention seeking etc. It creates a whole narrative that adds to the person that's wearing them. It was about promoting the idea that young designers can investigate older models to showcase their designs and that older models are just as effective, which I think our film proves. As the organization 'Age of no retirement' say, age is the one commonality we all share regardless of gender, racial heritage - whatever. We all with luck are going to get old so we should unite in resetting attitudes towards ageing.
POF: In ‘Style does not retire’ you featured the mature male model Anthony. Do you think mature male models experience similar or different struggles within their fashion careers compared to mature female models?
FRANKLIN: Right now, in modelling we are seeing more older women than we are older men. That being said, in our mass media industry if we look at the news, if we look at newspapers, if we look on the television, we see many more representations of masculinity not conforming to youthful depictions of their gender than we do women. We rarely see women who haven't had some form of appearance surgery. However, what's great is that we are starting to see the Angela Merkel’s the Christine Lagarde’s our own prime minister. I just this morning heard about the appointment of the new police chief, a woman named Cressida Dick, so there is progress being made but many of us would say, not quickly enough.
Stills from Style Does Not Retire. A Fashion Film Directed by Caryn Franklin in Collaboration with The Age of No Retirement
POF: We recently reported that Naomi Campbell scrapped the age limit for models on the competition show Americas Next Top model. Which brands and/or institutions do you think are successfully representing mature models?
FRANKLIN: Ed Watson at Brown has for a long time worked with representation and images older women because that's his key market. When at Debenhams, he employed my company to involve older women. We did one campaign which featured older models whose ages were 42, 52 and 69 years old. However, we were unable to continue with the campaign - even though it received a great response because I was sitting at a table full of men, some of whom revealed that they didn't find these older models attractive. Sometimes these male executives don't realize that they are engaging in their own sexual preference when they are making decisions about representation in womenswear. And that will take a shed load of psychology to help them understand that because as human beings we don’t like to let go of things that serve our belief systems, we don’t find challenge easy we like to process from a perspective of familiarity. Familiarity makes us feel safe and comfortable.
POF: This year we saw the first ever fifty plus fashion week, who are some of your favourite 50 plus models?
FRANKLIN: I’ve worked a lot with Valerie Pain so I like her very much, she’s an unusual model in that she can do quite Avant Garde looks. Of course, I like Daphne Self and Yasmin Le Bon. Maxine Smith is a model of colour that I've worked with on the Debenhams campaign who has a great look - very versatile, I'd love to see more of her. I'd love to see more of Naomi Campbell, I'd love to see more of Iman – these are women who are revered the world over for their aspirational beauty.
Corrections: Previous editions of this interview stated that Ed Watson employed charity initiative All Walks Beyond the Catwalk. This is incorrect and the interview has been updated to reflect this.
We have recently discussed the role music plays in our desire to continuously add to our wardrobes in the piece See Now, Buy Now… Hear Now? But the relationship between fashion and music goes far deeper than consumer behaviour.
music and fashion, it all comes from the same place of creativity
- Gwen Stefani
Continuing on in our venture into fashion and music The Psychology of Fashion caught up with film and digital content creator Shreya Jain.
The London College of Fashion Masters Graduate, whose work has been showcased at the London Short Film Festival has produced fashion films centred around female empowerment.
We asked Shreya why music is such an integral part of fashion and vice versa.
Shreya: “Fashion and Music are both inspiring articulations of expression. They add a dimension of expression to our being.
As canvases, we all individually paint our own with selections that best resonate with us. They make us feel alive and belong on a unique wavelength. Both as forms of art, they radiate an unspoken language. They sometimes speak the unexpressed, concealed and the subtle only to be understood.
Together, they have the potential to weave a beautiful story, give each other an added voice and portray a new dynamic.
They create unique resonates of our existence in time and space.”
Shreya has given The Psychology of Fashion unique access to her spectacular fashion films Astitva and Daaman check them out below and be sure to pick your jaws from off the floor when you’re finished!
Collaborating fashion, film and dance, Daaman weaves a story touching reality and imagination tapping the spirit of the different art forms. It’s an attempt to illustrate and explore dance as a voice, speaking of sensitive issues in a fashion film. It has been my first attempt at film making, involving me to conceptualise and creatively direct the realisation until the final outcome.
Translated as identity in Sanskrit, the film explores three dimensions of contemporary Indian female identity. The tensions between tradition and modernity, expectation and self-realization are presented in three choreographed parts; The first represents self-image, the second is the projected ideal and finally, the female struggle for independence and self-definition.
We want to increase access to designer pieces especially among the diaspora
- Mel Gabriel
We’ve visited Africa Fashion Week London, so what better way to celebrate the beginning of Black History Month than to continent hop and explore the world of Caribbean fashion!
The Psychology of Fashion had the pleasure of being invited to the private viewing of the Caribbean Lookbook pop-up shop in London which took place 23rd - 25th September 2016. We caught up with the founder, Trinidad native - Mel Gabriel to give us the inside scoop about the event and the expansion of the Caribbean fashion industry.
POF: Tell us all about Caribbean Lookbook
Mel: "Caribbean Lookbook is a platform for Caribbean fashion designers and artisans as well as lifestyle service providers from or in the Caribbean including those of Caribbean heritage. It’s essentially a marketing platform, although we do produce content. We focus on content, commerce and curation. "
POF: We’ve noticed that you’re also the creator of Trinidad Lookbook, the Online and Print Magazine. When does Trinidad Lookbook end and Caribbean Lookbook begin?
Mel: "Trinidad Lookbook ended two months ago and morphed into Caribbean Lookbook. Trinidad Lookbook was really just content. Caribbean Lookbook started as a directory and I decided to merge the brands because it was time to evolve."
POF: Why did you decide to come over to London?
Mel: "We started this pop up showroom and marketplace as a series and the idea is to pop up in different places three times a year. We want to increase access to designer pieces especially among the diaspora because while some designers have online shopping available people like to try clothes on and they like to interact with pieces. It’s just a better way to increase awareness of Caribbean brands because a lot of people don’t know that all of these brands exist they only know what is in mass media. We’re trying to bring the brands to the world. "
POF: What is the best thing is about Caribbean fashion?
Mel: "I think that everything that’s in the Caribbean extends into Caribbean fashion. We have our own style our own flavour our own kind of sexiness that translates into the way we dress and ultimately the kind of clothes and pieces that we produce. You could see that in this Meiling jumpsuit (A beautiful flowing jumpsuit that Mel is currently wearing that looks like it was made for her) everything is easy breezy, looks hot you know whilst still being chic. You can see that direct Caribbean influence in the types of pieces our designers produce without being obnoxiously Caribbean. It’s very colourful, it’s very breathable its functional to some degree but it’s also very sexy."
When discussing the changes happening in the Caribbean fashion industry, Mel tells us that the government’s support has had a huge impact in allowing the industry to grow.
Mel: “The governments are putting more things in place for designers to get some type of support especially manufacturing support, export support – because export has always been a big deal in terms of keeping people back and keeping the brands only on the shores of the Caribbean.”
Mel states that the way consumers spend and the technological advancement of fashion designers have also had a huge impact
Mel: "We’re talking about fashion more, that wasn’t happening before because people were not taking it as seriously as I would have hoped but now we are really pushing fashion as this thing where more people are buying local or buying regional. So those are some marked changes.
Designers are also way more technologically advanced. They are going back to school and upping their game, they are definitely using the internet way more and are paying attention to trends whilst not having the trends take over their work.”
POF: A lot of people associate the Caribbean with Carnival, do you think designers draw inspiration from the festival or do you think they’re trying to move away from it?
Mel: "I don’t think we could ever get away from carnival as Caribbean people or its influence on fashion or even fashions influence on carnival - it goes hand in hand. We see a lot of the same techniques in terms of beading and fabric use especially in the newer bands like lost tribe (Lost Tribe is the name of one of the many bands who wear matching costumes and celebrate the festivities together during Trinidad & Tobago’s world famous Carnival) they are like a fabric-only band they are not using feathers at all so it’s interesting noticing the different ways designers are using fabric. And then you have designers like Shop Shari and Christian Boucaud who use some ‘typically carnival’ techniques while producing their collections and it just works. There’s no way to really separate the two.
It’s a matter of remembering what our heritage is and not necessarily shying away from it because sometimes some people want to be less Caribbean and I don’t know why. There’s a way to find a balance between appealing to somebody who may not be Caribbean per say but would also appreciate a little bit of modernity with the colours and the flamboyance and all that."
We tried to get Mel to name her top favourite Caribbean designers from the huge list in Caribbean Lookbook’s directory but we had no such luck…
Mel: "I don’t have any favourites; I don’t play favourites. I can’t even do a top ten of my personal favourites because I enjoy bits and pieces from everybody. "
POF: What is your advice for a Caribbean designer who is looking to get into the industry but is overwhelmed by the competition worldwide?
Mel: "I would recommend they have a point of view. They need to understand that they are not going to develop a signature necessarily in the first week of designing and they need to relax about that. Some of them try to have a signature out the gate and they get trapped and they don’t know how to pivot out of that space. I think interning is always a good idea.
Get a lot of experience because a lot of designers they come out of school or they start a collection thinking they know everything and they don’t. I would also say don’t get too caught up in the hype because you’ll always have friends and followers who will egg you on and encourage you but likes don’t always equal sales so don’t look for it. Focus on doing good work and producing quality work and everything else will come. "
On the final night of New York Fashion week, the recent CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year winner Marc Jacobs presented a spring/summer 2017 show jam packed with whimsical and psychedelic designs. Victorian style coats were paired with racy hot pants, school girl socks and sky scraper platforms. The pastel colour palette was broken up by smatterings of glitter, sequins and feathers. The clothes themselves were fascinating to say the least but It was the styling that really stole the show and in the worst way possible. For the hair, Jacob teamed up with Redken Global executive director Guido Palau to create faux dreadlocks with colourful highlights.
Dreadlocks or locs is a hair style originating from black Afro-Caribbean culture featured most prominently (but not exclusively) amongst Jamaican Rastafarians who believe the hairstyle symbolises the Lion of Judah. Black men and women worldwide have been rocking dreadlocks in numerous variations (see crochet-locks and sisterlocks) for decades however, for his runway show Jacobs chose to cast only two Black models. Soon after, talk of cultural appropriation flooded social media as people from various backgrounds lambasted the fashion industry’s habit of simultaneously adopting historically black styles without acknowledging their origins and displaying them almost exclusively on non-black individuals. Don’t believe me? See what happens when you type ‘Dreadlocks’ in google image search:
The appropriation of Afro-Caribbean hairstyles is a particular sore spot given that Black men and women are often deemed unemployable, have been banned and also dissuaded from wearing their hair in traditional styles.
To make matters worse Jacob added fuel to the fire with this defensive message on Instagram
"And all who cry "cultural appropriation" or whatever nonsense about any race of skin color wearing their hair in a particular style or manner - funny how you don't criticize women of color for straightening their hair. I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don't see color or race- I see people. I'm sorry to read that so many people are so narrow minded…Love is the answer. Appreciation of all and inspiration from anywhere is a beautiful thing. Think about it."
There are many things wrong with this comment. Firstly, the beauty of genetics means that Black and ethnic minority women exist in numerous variations: some have pale skin, some have blue eyes and some even have straight hair. Secondly, while all women take pleasure in routinely changing their hairstyles, historically Black women straighten their hair as a means of assimilating. Just this month when competing for Miss America, Cierra Jackson - Miss District of Columbia was encouraged to wear her hair straight to increase her chances of winning, she ignored this advice, making a powerful statement about the need for western countries to embrace natural hair in the process.
However, the most disturbing part of the post is the designer’s claim that he doesn’t ‘see colour’. Perhaps the hanging lightbulbs that decorated the runway for Marc Jacobs’ SS17 show were being used to illuminate his white privilege. Although it would be ideal to live in a world where the colour of a person’s skin did not infringe upon their ability to navigate through life, that is simply not the case.
Here are 5 Psychological studies which prove that when it comes to race, colour-blindness is a myth.
The Ultimatum Game
In the Ultimatum Game study, researchers (Kubota and colleagues (2013) solicited participants to complete a task in which they were paired off with another person who was in charge of dividing up a particular sum of money. Participants were allowed to either accept or reject the proposed monetary division. If the participant accepted, they kept the money ascribed to them whereas a rejection would leave both the participant and the person dividing the money, empty-handed. Results revealed that the rate and frequency at which participants rejected offers increased when the person making the offer, was Black. Thus implying the existence of an implicit racial bias towards Black individuals even when the endorsement of such a bias comes at a personal cost.
“Educated” Black Man Becomes Lighter in the Mind’s Eye
When shown target images of a Black male primed with the word “educated”, participants remembered the male’s skin tone as being significantly lighter than when an image of the same Black male was primed with the word “ignorant”. The presence of this ‘skin tone bias’ suggests an inability for participants to associate positive connotations to Black individuals. Consequently, they remembered the educated male as possessing less Afrocentric features in order to ease the internal conflict brought about by a challenge to the social norm; that being, the perception of Black males as possessing unfavourable character traits (Ben-Zeev et al 2014).
Wrong Number Study
in Gaertner & Bickman’s (1971) classic Wrong Number study, participants received a distressed call from an unknown individual whose race was identifiable by their voice characteristics. The degree to which participants exhibited helping behaviour was used as an indication of racial discrimination. Results showed that whilst Black participants showed a similar level of help to both Black and White callers, White participants exhibited significantly less assistance to Black callers.
The Police Officer’s Dilemma
In the Police Officers Dilemma study, participants played a video game with the task of ‘shooting’ any armed males they see whilst simultaneously avoiding shooting any unarmed males (Correll et al, 2002). Results indicated that White participants were quicker and more accurate at shooting armed Black males than armed White males. White participants also made more errors in shooting unarmed Black males than unarmed White males. It appears that the “rapid racial categorisation” of Black males evoked a stereotype of an aggressive and potentially dangerous individual which increased participants’ perceived threat, resulting in a predisposition to shoot. The fact that this study has been repeated numerous times (e.g. Greenwald, Oakes & Hoffman, 2003; Plant, Peruche & Butz, 2005) and has garnered similar results, provides strong support for the presence of an implicit (or rather, automatic) negative racial bias towards Black individuals
The Implicit Association Test
Developed by Antony Greenwald in 1998, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) uses participant’s automatic associations as a measure of the attitudes and beliefs they may not openly solicit or be consciously aware of. An aggregate of 732,881 IAT scores found that individuals are faster at associating Blacks with negative words and Whites with positive words. These results have been interpreted as highlighting a general implicit preference for Whites over Blacks. Despite a large proportion of participants verbally asserting their tolerance of all races, it has been suggested that the IAT effect is reflective of “the pervasiveness and unconscious forms of prejudice”
What are your opinions on Marc Jacobs controversial comments? Sound off below.
The weather - typically British: damp, overcast and just plain miserable. A train journey, which usually takes a swift fifteen minutes was derailed (excuse the pun) due to planned engineering works. I, concluding that bringing a change of flat shoes would ruin my outfit was forced to hobble around both Paddington and Earls Court station in 5 inch heels. I was faced with all of the makings of an otherwise appalling day but as soon as I stepped foot into Kensington Olympia the beauty of day 2 of Africa Fashion Week London 2016 washed my woes away.
‘Created by Ronke Ademiluyi, Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) is Europe's largest catwalk event of African and African-inspired design.’ The two-day event featured six runway shows, inspirational talks, music performances and an array of vendors selling everything from hair care products to breath-taking garments and accessories. With this jam-packed schedule the open event certainly achieved its goal ‘to increase the visibility and awareness of African designers by providing them with an affordable global showcasing platform.’
Without a doubt, the runway shows were the highlight of event. No collection was like the other as viewers were greeted with an eclectic mix of traditional and modern pieces. Models expertly stomped down the runway to music that made me enraged with the fact that I had deleted the Shazam app a week earlier.
August – Silk and satin pieces in vibrant colours coupled with fringed hats that somehow provided more coverage than the one Beyoncé wore in her formation video.
Detour Fashion – One of my favourite collections. The mix of orange, white and tan tones were incredibly complimentary. There was something for everyone. You could tell that the pieces were designed with the everyday woman in mind.
Lady Biba – Models walked to classical music wearing pieces that fit them like a glove. One of the simpler collections in terms of colour palate however, the expert tailoring left a lasting impression.
Meme Bete – At one point the roar of the crowd was so loud that the room was vibrating. The buff and statuesque models provided a welcome dose of eye-candy but even they could not steal focus from the stunning swim shorts and bags in traditional prints.
Ngoni & House of Okosun – A colour palate which screamed retro chic. The jackets were really the star of the show. Cut in a loose fitting fabric, the prints were broken up by flat muted colours as to not overwhelm the outfit.
Modern Heritage – Casual clothing with a twist. One model strutted down the runway in what seemed to be a simple romper only for her to turn and reveal large black asymmetrical sleeve.
Cotilda – Full of structured co-ords. A mix of floral patterns and monochrome prints. My favourite piece - the black and white cigarette pants which featured drawings of young black women.
Her excellency, Yemi Osinbajothe - wife of the Nigerian vice president Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, gave an impassioned speech at the end of the runway show. Mrs Osinbajothe highlighted the economic impact of the fashion industry and its ability to bring people out of poverty. Mrs Osinbajothe also discussed her initiative STEP UP, a programme which trains women and men with various skills required to start up small businesses.
Among many friendly faces I bumped into Daniel Dadson (bottom left) from ABN - The African Broadcast Network, which will be airing coverage from African Fashion Week London 2016 on their channel (SKY 235). I will be live in the studio at ABN radio on Friday 16th September to discuss all things Fashion Psychology so make sure you tune in.
It's safe to say that I will be returning to Africa Fashion Week London next year. The fashions, the performances and the sheer energy that encompassed Kensington Olympia were second-to-none.
The event was a truly eye opening experience. It showcased some of the continent's best talent and still left me yearning for more. There is room for this event to grow and we will no doubt be promised a bigger and better event come 2017.
African Fashion is becoming ever popular within Europe. Throughout the years you can see the influence African style has had on both luxury and high street brands through their adoption of traditional African prints and colour schemes.
Africa inhabits some of the fastest developing countries in the world with and has an ever expanding fashion sector. More than just a trend, African Fashion is a worldwide movement that is here to stay. Now, please excuse me as grab some of the beautiful cloth I purchased at the event and watch a series of YouTube videos in an effort to achieve the perfect head wrap.
All pictures are owned by The Psychology of Fashion
Last week, Channel 5 aired the first of a two-part series called ‘Gangland’ a documentary which goes behind the scenes of UK gang culture surrounding hard drugs, fast cash, violent crimes and weaponry. Whilst the documentary was certainly eye-opening, providing an unbridled insight into the lives of the UKs most ruthless drug lords many have claimed the show is another addition to the medias damning portrayal of young Black men. Just a few days later video spread of police arresting Sulaiman Lee, a charity worker, for freely distributing Black orientated literature to children and young people. What is more concerning than the arrest is the fact the Lee’s organisation Black Child Promotions has never received anything near the amount of media attention as his arrest. The Voice reports that Black Child Promotions was set up by Lee, Noel Kerr and Leonegus Darealest and aims to give children a positive view of their identity through the works of a range of authors which depict both prominent and positive Black figures. Positive stories involving young Black men rarely cross over into mainstream media.
In British media, negatively valenced reporting features a disproportionate number of Black persons, particularly males (Cushion, Moor & Jewell, 2011). A recent content analysis by REACH found that 40 % of news stories involving young men were crime related. However, when accounting for race, this percentage significantly increased with an overwhelming 70% of news stories involving young Black men pertaining to violence, drugs, gangs and other crime related actives. In news reports, when a Black male is the perpetrator of a crime his ethnicity is made salient, in an attempt to portray his race as somewhat of a contributing factor in the execution of the crime. Similarly, when a Black male is the victim of a crime, it is consistently reported that he may be gang affiliated. With journalists and editors, themselves acknowledging the predominantly negative coverage of Black males in the media it can be argued that, Black youths have been typecast into the role of the disenfranchised “criminal other”. Several reports have highlighted the role that negative media portrayals and institutionalised racism plays in the disproportionate amount of young black men being stopped and searched, arrested and in some cases assaulted or even killed in police custody. However, little research has been conducted into the role that clothing plays in adding to this issue.
Minorities who wear hoodies are asking to be shot - Geraldo Rivera
In British media, “Hoodie” was one of several words frequently used when reporting the criminal activities of young males (Garner, 2009). Hoodies or hooded tops have become an increasingly favoured fashion staple most notably amongst adolescents and young adults (Mays et al, 2013). Although often worn when exercising or when partaking in causal excursions, the image of a hooded individual has become the modern symbol of street violence and criminal gangs (Pearson, 2008). With various UK establishments from Shopping Centres to Universities placing a ban on hoodies, it is clear that the wearers of this clothing staple have formed a new out-group, associated with illegality and aggression (Wyer & Calvini, 2011).
No other clothing staple – devoid of religious connotation, has been so severely demonized that is has garnered the attention of political figures to clamp down on the subculture of individuals who endorse garment. Many have argued that the emergence of a “Hoodie Culture” has incited a moral panic, with the solitary figure in the hooded top “striking fear into the hearts of most people” (McLean, 2005). Some researchers have pointed out that people often exhibit avoidance behaviours such as crossing the street, clutching their possessions or sitting at the other side of the room when encountering ‘Hoodies’. Similarly, studies have shown that subliminally priming participants with the image of a Hoodie increased their tendency to display greater avoidance even in subsequent social interactions. It therefore appears that the adverse portrayal of Hoodies has led to the formation of a negative implicit bias against this perceptual cue.
After the tragic death of 17-year-old Florida resident Trayvon Martin; the image of Martin in a hooded top became a status symbol of the two universally vilified perceptual cues: Afrocentricity and Hoodies. When speaking about Martin’s death in 2012 television personality Geraldo Rivera sensationally claimed that minorities who wear hoodies are asking to be shot. Whilst the belief that minorities are in any way shape or form ‘asking’ to be mistreated, vilified and oppressed is abhorrent, one wonders whether a change in clothing can bring about a change in racial perception?
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In my household we play a special kind of drinking game. You need two things to play this game, a glass of your favourite alcoholic beverage, (in my case rosé) and a TV. The game takes place during the advertisements and there’s one and only one rule: When a Black person appears on the screen you have a sip. Suffice to say, 3 hours into the game everyone is stone cold sober, disgruntled and just plain old fed up. If you change the rules slightly so that you only drink when you see a Black Woman, well let’s just say your wine would have matured…considerably.
Now before you start screaming the names of Chiwetel, Viola and Kerry here are some figures to prove my point.
Across all media domains the amount of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) models has not grown in proportion to the BAME population which, as of 2011 makes up 14.1% of the total UK population - a 5.3% increase from 2001. Only around 5.3% of UK adverts feature a BAME individual, this figure decreases to 3.3% when only considering BAME persons with leading roles (Clearcast-Sweney, 2011). In the US just under 3% of all spending on advertising goes towards media directed at Black audiences (Nielsen, 2013). During 2014’s spring and fall periods, out of 730 fashion and beauty advertising campaigns featuring 1105 models, just under a mere 5 % of those were Black (Forbes, 2014)
Researchers have argued that failing to see a representation of individuals belonging to your ethic group may cause group members to feel devalued. More recently, Dabiri’s (2013) article entitled “Who stole all the Black women from Britain?” appears to illuminate the aforementioned sentiment. Whilst there is the opportunity to turn to media channels that cater specifically to minorities, more research needs to be conducted to further asses how this pigeon-holing is being internalised by ethnic minority media consumers.
Moreover, some researchers have demonstrated that when BAME models are featured it is often in stereotypical, derogatory and in some cases dehumanising manners. Milkie (1999) suggests that minority individuals simply resist media images that exclude or negatively portray ethnic group members. However, as Knobloch-Westerwick and Coates (2006) have outlined, it appears that this resistance often evolves and manifests into negative feelings, intentions and behaviours.
In the Qualitative Research study "If I'm not in it then I must not be what's hot" one Black woman reveals the psychological impact of racial representation within the media.
The ethnic minority population is rapidly increasing as is inter-marrying which can foster the development of new ethnicities.
As minority groups grow in number so too does their spending power with data revealing that minorities outspend majority ethnic consumers in numerous industries including technology and fashion.
Many brands attempt to connect to their racially diversified consumer base through marketing and advertising tools. However, many brands fail to acknowledge the vast differences in the consumer behaviour of ethnic groups, differences which may render certain marketing and advertising tools redundant.
To find out more about cultural differences in shopping habits check out the slide show below!
Have you noticed any differences in the way your culture shops compared to others?
Tell us about it!
According to the 2012 ‘Multicultural Britain’ report, the combined disposable income of Black and Ethnic Minority consumers reached a staggering £300 billion in 2010, a figure that is continually rising.
Recently, in some instances (particularly in the case of Indian males) minorities appear to be out-earning their White counterparts. The IPA’s New Britain (2014) report estimated ethnic minorities spending power at £12-£15 billion per year (IPA, 2014) and these findings are not only restricted to the UK as studies have estimated the combined purchasing power of ethnic minorities in the US to be over $2 trillion (Race for Opportunity, 2015).
These figures appear to squash sentiments held by many consumer based industries who fail to target minorities under the impression that such groups don’t spend. In fact, whilst the current strength of the so-called ‘brown pound’ is evidence of the need for marketers to further engage minority consumers, issues often arise when the nuances in consumer behaviour between minority groups are overlooked.
Marketers should refrain from viewing ethnic minorities as a homogeneous group
When focusing solely on discretionary purchases the behavioural differences between ethnic minorities are apparent. A report by Hughes (2010) found that when compared to other ethnic groupings, White individuals spend the lowest proportion of their household expenditure (4.6%) on clothing and footwear. When focusing solely on ethnic minorities, although Mixed raced and Black households spend similar proportions of their household expenditure on clothing and footwear (5.1%) Asians appear to significantly outspend both Whites and their ethnic minority counterparts (6.4%).
However, when solely considering hair and beauty products, Black African/Caribbean individuals reportedly spend six times more than any other group (Think Ethnic, 2014). Similarly, in the US, African Americans purchase nine times more beauty and grooming products than any other group (Neilsen, 2013) and often spend more on luxury products including clothes and jewellery than White consumers (Charles, Hurst and Roussanov, 2009). Furthermore, statistics from the 2009 Income, Expenditure, Poverty and Wealth report indicated that when solely considering footwear, Hispanics spend more than any other ethnic group (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).
Ultimately, this data suggests that when compared to White consumers, minorities spend a greater proportion of their household earnings on discretionary purchases and this money is spent deferentially between ethnic minority groups. The results suggest that marketers should refrain from viewing ethnic minorities as a homogeneous group as studies have shown that the aforementioned distinction also mirrors the way in which the appeal of various marketing tools are cross-cut by race.